Two separate outbreaks of Salmonella in humans in the US and Canada have been linked to pet food.
In the US, seven cases of Salmonella infection in seven states have been linked to the outbreak so far. These illnesses occurred between January and August this year, and one case required hospitalization. reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).. No deaths were reported.
It may take several weeks for symptoms to appear Salmonella infection — such as diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps — occur, and it takes time to link cases to an ongoing epidemic. So the true number of people who have become ill may be much higher than currently reported, the CDC notes. Six of the seven people affected were infants and the other was over 65 years old.
Officials conducted five interviews with individuals who tested positive for Salmonella or their families. They found that all five had contact with a dog or had a dog in their household. Three of the five people interviewed fed their dogs Victor brand dog food, and one recalled buying the Hi-Pro Plus product.
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The researchers took DNA samples from Salmonella bacteria that made every person sick and found that microbes are very closely related. “This suggests that the people in this outbreak became ill from the same product,” the CDC said. Salmonella found in a particular batch of Victor brand Hi-Pro Plus dog food also closely matched the outbreak strain.
“This means that people probably got sick from touching this dog food, touching things like dog bowls that contain this dog food, or touching the feces or saliva of dogs that have been fed this dog food,” said CDC. (Note that most pets do not get sick from Salmonella and show no symptoms but can spread the bacteria.)
Mid America Pet Food, the maker of Victor brand dog food, has voluntarily recalled all brands of dog and cat food it manufactured with a “best before” date before October 31, 2023. The full recall list can be found on the Food and Drug Administration website.
Meanwhile, in Canada, officials are investigating an outbreak of “widely drug resistant” Salmonella which has affected at least 40 people in six provinces, according to a Public Health Agency of Canada statement (PHAC). As with the US outbreak, many of the reported illnesses occurred in children under 5 years of age. Thirteen people were hospitalized and no deaths were reported.
Cases of the outbreak in Canada occurred between July 2020 and September 2023, with 13 of the cases occurring in the past year. The investigation was initially prompted by an unusual spike in drug resistance Salmonella in many provinces. “Using a laboratory method called whole genome sequencing, it was found that some Salmonella the illnesses dating back to 2020 were caused by the same outbreak strain as the illnesses that occurred in 2023,” PHAC said.
So far, two likely sources of infection have been identified: exposure to raw meat prepared for pets (raw pet food) and contact with cattle, especially calves. A common raw pet food supplier has not yet been identified and additional sources of infection may emerge as the investigation continues.
“The outbreak is a reminder that Salmonella the bacteria can be found in raw pet food and in many types of animals, including dogs and cattle,” PHAC advises. “Always use safe food handling practices when preparing, cooking or storing raw pet food, to prevent illness. Practice good hand hygiene and frequent hand washing after contact with dogs fed raw pet food, cattle and their environment.”
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